Element 3: Research Project
Following the first year of the program, the PhDCEP candidate engages in the thesis research project, unencumbered by any other program requirements. It is a period of intense interaction with the project supervisor(s) and the thesis committee. The expectation of the department faculty is that two calendar years will be sufficient to enable the student to complete the research project. Provisions (described below) are included in the PhDCEP program, which empower the thesis committee to lengthen the time frame of the thesis research phase if necessary.
During the research effort it is expected that students will take technical electives to support their ongoing work and to broaden their education. Approval of the research advisor is required to register for these elective subjects. There are no required subjects during this phase of the program.
The satisfactory completion of this part of the program is identical to the ScD/PhD program in the department. A written thesis is required, and it must be approved by the thesis committee and thesis advisor(s) and by the Chairman of the Committee on Graduate Students in the Department. Satisfactory passing of a public defense of the thesis, verified by the vote of a quorum of at least five members of the Chemical Engineering Department faculty, also is required. Successful candidates must demonstrate originality, creativity and independence in the technical research phase of the PhDCEP program.
The PhDCEP program will benefit from the Chemical Engineering Department’s history of strong interaction between doctoral candidates and their thesis committees. Doctoral committees in Chemical Engineering are comprised of two or more members of the Chemical Engineering faculty beyond the thesis advisor and they usually include faculty and other professionals from outside the department. Prior to the end of the fall term of the third year, the PhDCEP candidate will present the thesis committee with a formal written ‘plan-to-finish’ and discuss it in the context of progress to that point in time. We expect that the PhDCEP plan-to-finish meeting will have one of four outcomes. The thesis committee may conclude that:
a. The student’s progress is satisfactory, and he or she is on track for successful completion of the research project prior to the end of the third calendar year.
b. Research progress of the student is satisfactory; the scope of the project is well-suited for completion in the foreseeable future, but not by the end of the third calendar year.
c. The student’s progress is satisfactory, but the scope of the research project is not well-suited to completion in a clearly-defined time frame.
d. Research progress is unsatisfactory; successful conclusion by the student is not expected on any time scale.
In scenario (b) the thesis committee and research supervisors are empowered to recommend a time extension of up to one year to the Chemical Engineering Department Graduate Officer, whose approval is expected under normal circumstances. Scenario (c) requires a decision on the part of the student. If the student may request a transfer into the traditional PhD program in the Chemical Engineering Department, in which case formal application to the department’s graduate admissions committee will be required. This application would normally be submitted by January 15th of the academic year in progress as part of the standard admissions cycle. Endorsement of the student’s research work and application by the thesis committee and research advisor will be essential in such applications. Alternatively, the student may elect to graduate with the MSCEP degree. We expect scenario (d) to be a rare event. Students deemed by the committee to be making unsatisfactory progress will be denied further registration and will leave MIT with the MSCEP degree. The Chemical Engineering faculty anticipates that scenario (a) will be the predominant case for the PhDCEP candidates admitted into the program.